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Google's Punishment? Lecture Those They Snooped On

Unknown Lamer posted about a year ago | from the sounds-about-right dept.

Google 252

theodp writes "When Aaron Swartz tapped into MIT's network and scooped up data from one non-profit company, the U.S. Attorney threatened him with 35 years in prison and a $1 million fine. So what kind of jail time did 38 Attorneys General threaten Google with for using its Street View cars to scoop up passwords, e-mail and other personal information by tapping into the networks of their states' unsuspecting citizens? None. In agreeing to settle the case, the NY Times reports, Google is required to police its own employees on privacy issues, lecture the public on how to fend off privacy violations like the one Google perpetrated, and forfeit about 20% of one day's net income. Given the chance, one imagines that Aaron Swartz would have happily jumped at a comparable deal." The fine being $7 million. At least EPIC isn't as cynical and thinks the outcome was positive.

cancel ×

252 comments

Seriously now... (4, Insightful)

Cali Thalen (627449) | about a year ago | (#43160605)

I'm going to submit this submission for the best example of 'comparing apples to oranges'.

I'll assume the submitter knew nothing about the Google situation in this case, or should I think it's just a bad troll?

Re:Seriously now... (3, Interesting)

Custard Horse (1527495) | about a year ago | (#43160645)

The whole Google fiasco was a non-story IMHO. Sure, data was collected and it arguably shouldn't have been.

Google had its hands slapped and has to pay a fine and suffer the negative publicity. Can we move on now?

Re:Seriously now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43160647)

I'll assume the submitter knew nothing about the Google situation in this case, or should I think it's just a bad troll?

You, sir, are the troll. I am not.

Re:Seriously now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43160701)

No, YOU are.

Re:Seriously now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43160967)

No, I am!

Re:Seriously now... (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year ago | (#43161249)

Wabbit season!

Re:Seriously now... (1)

desdinova 216 (2000908) | about a year ago | (#43161433)

Duck season!

Re:Seriously now... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43160785)

I'll assume the submitter knew nothing about the Google situation in this case, or should I think it's just a bad troll?

You, sir, are the troll. I am not.

Assuming you're the one who wrote the submission, yes actually you are.

You're comparing sniffing passwords from open, unsecured access points (which is arguably not even 'naughty' to start with) to a directed break-in of a computer system you were told, and signed an agreement, to not enter into. But since "Down with the Evil Corporation, Up with the Lone Renegade!" stories get a lot of page hits, they went ahead and pushed it to the front page.

Re:Seriously now... (2)

tibit (1762298) | about a year ago | (#43161047)

Wait a minute, access to JSTOR was open from the campus too, you insensitive clod! It wasn't secured, just as the open APs aren't.

Re:Seriously now... (2, Interesting)

divisionbyzero (300681) | about a year ago | (#43161177)

I'll assume the submitter knew nothing about the Google situation in this case, or should I think it's just a bad troll?

You, sir, are the troll. I am not.

Assuming you're the one who wrote the submission, yes actually you are.

You're comparing sniffing passwords from open, unsecured access points (which is arguably not even 'naughty' to start with) to a directed break-in of a computer system you were told, and signed an agreement, to not enter into. But since "Down with the Evil Corporation, Up with the Lone Renegade!" stories get a lot of page hits, they went ahead and pushed it to the front page.

Sniffing open unsecured access point is most certainly naughty. It's basically like being a peeping Tom. Whether it deserves legal action and to what extent is debatable. But the "They were asking for it" argument also doesn't hold water.

Re:Seriously now... (0, Flamebait)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about a year ago | (#43160667)

Worse than that, what Google actually did wasn't illegal, just bad form. Wardriving has been around a long time. The intention wasn't to steal anything, unlike Aaron's intention.

Aaron Swartz wasn't a bad guy, just a poor sob who couldn't handle the heat of the kitchen he was cooking in. I have no sympathy for him killing himself. He should have manned up, and faced his accusers with honor.

Re:Seriously now... (1)

recoiledsnake (879048) | about a year ago | (#43160801)

Are you sure that collecting packets and storing them from unsecured WiFi points is legal?

Re:Seriously now... (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about a year ago | (#43160859)

Probably is now. Wasn't at the time.

Re:Seriously now... (1)

poetmatt (793785) | about a year ago | (#43160897)

guess which one of those guesses of yours matters? The answer is the same as it always has been, by the way.

Re:Seriously now... (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | about a year ago | (#43161009)

Are you sure that collecting packets and storing them from unsecured WiFi points is legal?

Unless they are covered by some sort of DMCA (or similar) protection, yes it is legal. Remember, this is basically the same thing that goes on when someone "steals" satellite-broadcast TV by tuning in and decrypting it with home-made hardware, and the only reason that is illegal is because of the copyright protection afforded to the content, it has nothing to do with what the actual "thief" is doing.

Re:Seriously now... (1)

Dishevel (1105119) | about a year ago | (#43161325)

And.
Because this was unencrypted traffic, all Google did was hear and remember.
There was nothing at all illegal about this.

Re:Seriously now... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43161019)

It's grey. When the law involves humans, perception is part of the law.

Technically an unsecured router is broadcasting unencrypted data on unlicensed frequencies for which receivers are ubiquitously available.
Humans think of their Wifi connections like wireless "modem calls" and have some expectation of that kind of privacy (not saying it's rational, but they do).

This is much like voyeurism, if your neighbours are setting up a telescope to watch you in the shower they are the voyeurs, if they aren't but you leave the window open, you are a flasher. The same events occur, them seeing you naked, and which party is responsible and whether it's a crime is all about perception, circumstance and intent.

Personally, I don't like the kind of porn any of my neighbors are downloading, so I fetch my own.

Re:Seriously now... (1)

AlecC (512609) | about a year ago | (#43161087)

What law does it break? There are, in some jurisdictions, laws against snooping police frequencies, or if not against snooping, against telling anybody what you snooped (I think that is the law in the UK). But generally, the radio wavelengths are assumed to be free. If you don't want people to listen, encrypt. Transmission is a different matter.

Re:Seriously now... (5, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#43160825)

. I have no sympathy for him killing himself.

Come on, you can still have sympathy for people even if they were stupid. Man, I know some drunk homeless guys on the street, who I have sympathy for, even though it's entirely their fault where they are.

When someone is in a bad situation, it's ok to have sympathy for them, even if it's their own fault.

Re:Seriously now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43160885)

Yes it is only by chance that you have been born not stupid (and time may tell whether that actually true or not in any case, you might not have been properly tested yet for stupidity). So have sympathy for those less fortunate.

Re:Seriously now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43161397)

Man, I know some drunk homeless guys on the street, who I have sympathy for, even though it's entirely their fault where they are.

And you have talked to them and know this for a fact that is their fault? Or do you assume that it is obvious that a homeless person is to blame for their predicament?

I hear a lot of the homeless have untreated mental conditions or were otherwise failed by society. I suspect only a small fraction are there "by choice" or at least because they do not want to make the effort to get a "proper" life.

Re:Seriously now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43160833)

Maybe he didn't expect the amount of punishment or retribution he would get for his actions.

But if I understand correctly it wasn't even yet certain that he would get all of that.

Re:Seriously now... (5, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | about a year ago | (#43160835)

You have no idea about depression and suicide. So you look like an ignorant asshole

These situations aren't the same, but I do have Sympathy for Aaron.

Sadly, asswipe like you are still around who have no clue what depression is like, or what goes on leading up to suicide. Hint: It's not what you think.

Not that it keeps you from spouting your crap.

Re:Seriously now... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43161255)

Hopefully you will soon have to face your own suicide demons, you are a very unhappy and depressed individual.

Re:Seriously now... (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year ago | (#43161323)

"Asswipe" is not a plural, group noun. The plural would be asseswipe.

Re:Seriously now... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43161387)

No, the proper plural for asswipe would be geekoid.

Re:Seriously now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43160889)

People with mental illnesses should man up. Noted.

Re:Seriously now... (1, Insightful)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about a year ago | (#43161161)

Apparently everything is a mental illness these days. I have one, you have one, my dog has one, and noone has to be responsible for their actions.

Maybe your dog has one because he has (0)

Marrow (195242) | about a year ago | (#43161413)

to live with you?

And the crime in Googles case is arguably worse: They were in it for the money.

Re:Seriously now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43161431)

If you honestly believe that then you have no idea what a mental illness is.

Re:Seriously now... (3, Insightful)

femtobyte (710429) | about a year ago | (#43160941)

Oh look, a pseudonymous pro-corporate internet bully telling a dead person to "man up" and "face his accusers with honor." What valiance!

Re:Seriously now... (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | about a year ago | (#43161051)

Is Femtobyte one of those Polish names?

Re:Seriously now... (3, Insightful)

femtobyte (710429) | about a year ago | (#43161145)

I have nothing against pseudonymity --- just against hypocrisy, like talking about "manning up," "facing accusers," and "honor," while spitting on the deceased (who almost certainly did far more honorable service to humanity in his short life than "Archangel Michael" ever will) over the internet.

Re:Seriously now... (2, Interesting)

tibit (1762298) | about a year ago | (#43161085)

What Google did was unauthorized access to a computer system. You know, computers communicate with each other, the network is as much part of the system as the CPU is. What they did is in fact illegal in many places where they did it. The prosecutors know better than stand up to someone with such deep pockets, though. No, it wasn't like BP -- people understand so little about IT that the public outcry wasn't enough to cover possible fallout from messing with a legal department that got more dough than your entire state's (and subdivisions thereof) legal departments, all combined.

Re:Seriously now... (1)

matrim99 (123693) | about a year ago | (#43161237)

I still don't understand how someone can steal something that they already own (Public Domain).

Re:Seriously now... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43160717)

What I want to know is what is with all the trollish 'stories' on /. recently. Are these submitted by 'anonymous' Dice employees trolling for clicks like HuffPost and others? I count at least 3 on the frontpage today...

Re:Seriously now... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43160743)

Seriously...

- This was a settlement, not what the attorney generals asked for. In Germany, regulators didn't even find anything to press charges with.
- Also, just a little triviality here, but Google didn't actually violate any laws right?
- The accusation against Google here is one employee was not supervised properly, not deliberate privacy invasion. Or do we want people to throw the book at this one employee? People here believe in what Aaron Swartz was doing, but it was still willful violation of the law. Pretty darn different.

One person got screwed by the law. Therefore we should throw the book at everyone!

Re:Seriously now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43160751)

I'm going to submit this submission for the best example of 'comparing apples to oranges'.

I'll assume the submitter knew nothing about the Google situation in this case, or should I think it's just a bad troll?

True.

One guy doing one thing one time can not be compared to a multi-billion-dollar corporation knowingly equiping an entire fleet of vehicles to go around continuously snooping.

Re:Seriously now... (0)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year ago | (#43160809)

No, it's a good comparison, except it's grapefruit to grapes rather than apples to oranges. Schwartz had credentials (permission) to access MIT's servers, IOW he's a grape. What Google did was much bigger, and I don't believe them when they say it was a coding error. Yeah, it was code, and it was an error to put that code in, but it wasn't a bug, it was deliberate. How can password cracking be an accident?

A better counterexample of how corporations and the rich are effectively above the law while it comes down hard on real people would be Sony's XCP, which my then-teenaged daughter innocently installed on my PC. Its entire purpose was vandalism. It disabled all file sharing programs and all CD burning programs, never mind that the files I shared and the CDs I burned were perfectly legal.

I'd still like to know why nobody went to prison for XCP, if I vandalized Sony's computers the same way they vandalized mine, I'd be in prison.

The only answer I can come up with is that a rich man only goes to prison when a richer man wants him to. We no longer have the rule of law in the US, and possibly nowhere on Earth, which is what this is really about.

Re:Seriously now... (1)

poetmatt (793785) | about a year ago | (#43160927)

What? when was there password cracking? Link please?

all they did was made a database of open SSIDs, basically. When does that ever turn into password cracking?

Re:Seriously now... (3, Interesting)

tibit (1762298) | about a year ago | (#43161127)

Nope. The SSID database is not all that they did. They sniffed the data packets as well. As in: they got the MACs of the machines of the network, even hardwired machines, they also logged the contents of all the IP traffic, mDNS names, NMB names, etc.

Re:Seriously now... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43160961)

I'm going to submit this submission for the best example of 'comparing apples to oranges'.

I'll assume the submitter knew nothing about the Google situation in this case, or should I think it's just a bad troll?

Google was collecting random, unencrypted, broadcast data as they plotted wi-fi access point coordinates for building a geolocation database. There was no intent to collect passwords or any other sensitive information, and intent is a huge component of criminality. So yes, this submission is a pretty massive troll. Google was eavesdropping at a party and possibly writing down more than they should have been, and Swartz was tapping phone lines during private conversations and recording all the audio with intent to distribute. Not even remotely close, unless one is blinded by troll-dom. But alas, this is slashdot, so every article must include a "sigh, if only Aaron were alive to see this..."

Anon because you trolls are a bunch of touchy little motherfuckers.

Re:Seriously now... (1)

LaggedOnUser (1856626) | about a year ago | (#43161469)

Actually, Google doesn't appear completely different to me. Like Aaron Schwartz, they have a manifesto - in their case they want to "index the word's information and make it available", which is actually rather similar to Aaron's motivation for free knowledge that got him in trouble with the prosecutor. And like Aaron Schwartz, they occasionally overstep in their zeal to make information public. Just look at all their legal trouble with book scanning, newspaper snippets, etc. So the comparison is not totally invalid.

Re:Seriously now... (2)

gmuslera (3436) | about a year ago | (#43161405)

Is different reading what routers are publishing in the open air than a fully political prosecution [slashdot.org] . Google isn't, and is not treated as an enemy of the state, and is an US company after all (Samsung, as is not, had pay 1 Billon [nytimes.com] over for selling rectangular devices).

Anyway, is not as bad as banks [rollingstone.com]

But Google's not evil! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43160659)

Lesson learned:

Lobbying fees and campaign contributions, also known as bribes, allow you to get away with things.

Not surprising (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43160685)

Google knows the kind of porn those AG's search for.

When you broadcast your personal info unencrypted (4, Insightful)

Hentes (2461350) | about a year ago | (#43160711)

you shouldn't have any expectations of privacy.

Re:When you broadcast your personal info unencrypt (1, Insightful)

Etherwalk (681268) | about a year ago | (#43160799)

you shouldn't have any expectations of privacy.

How many unencrypted telephones are there in the world?

Re:When you broadcast your personal info unencrypt (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43160933)

you shouldn't have any expectations of privacy.

How many unencrypted telephones are there in the world?

(From Wiki): Broadcasting is the distribution of audio and video content to a dispersed audience via any audio or visual mass communications medium

I'm not sure an unencrypted telephone can be said to distribute audio to a dispersed audience, or be a mass communication medium. There is a massive difference between a wireless system which broadcasts data for anyone in the area to pick up and a telephone which attempts to connect two people directly with no listeners-in on the side. A mobile phone does not broadcast to allow anyone who can pick up the signal to connect, a wireless router does.

Re:When you broadcast your personal info unencrypt (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43161035)

you shouldn't have any expectations of privacy.

How many unencrypted telephones are there in the world?

Probably a few hundred million.

Now tell me in this text-riddled online world of ours, how many are still being used.

No one actually talks on those things we call "smartphones" anymore.

Re:When you broadcast your personal info unencrypt (1)

Hentes (2461350) | about a year ago | (#43161181)

GSM does use a form of encryption, although not a strong one. Which is one of the reasons I don't like to discuss sensitive topics on the phone.

Re:When you broadcast your personal info unencrypt (1)

Americium (1343605) | about a year ago | (#43161451)

Really, because GSM has bad encryption? I'm sure no one is close to you and listening to your signal.

Regardless of the encryption used, the telco has the key and just forwards the police unencrypted audio.

Re:When you broadcast your personal info unencrypt (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about a year ago | (#43161209)

Those phones are generally on a point-to-point medium. Thats not the same as shouting private info to your SO through a megaphone, and then getting upset when the neighbors hear it.

Re:When you broadcast your personal info unencrypt (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43160907)

you shouldn't have any expectations of privacy.

BULLSHIT

Because it takes an active effort to get that data. And not just get it - keep it.

Let's just rephrase your knob-slobbering Google-fanboi excuse-mongering a little bit:

When you have windows on your house, you shouldn't have any expectations of privacy. Someone can put a ladder up to your bedroom window and look in.

When you have a door on your house, you shouldn't have any expectations of privacy. Someone could just walk up to the door and walk in.

"Oh, it was a mistake. They didn't mean to do that."

BULLSHIT.

Again.

BULLSHIT.

A company that does billions and billions of dollars of business a year collecting and selling every private detail it can scrounge to other large corporations that are trying to sell you crap?

What kind of credulous fool believes that "mistake" crap anyway?

Re:When you broadcast your personal info unencrypt (2)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about a year ago | (#43161231)

Because it takes an active effort to get that data

You apparently have no idea how promiscuous sniffing works. You set your wireless device to receive, fire up your sniffer, and anyone in range will be recorded-- kind of like if you turned on a tape recorder in the park, and someone happens to be hollering private details in the vicinity.

Re:When you broadcast your personal info unencrypt (1)

bhagwad (1426855) | about a year ago | (#43161321)

If that ladder is on your property then it's not allowed. If the ladder is elsewhere then it's fine.
If your door is open then anyone can look in to see provided they don't step on your property.

Re:When you broadcast your personal info unencrypt (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43161373)

When you have windows on your house, you shouldn't have any expectations of privacy. Someone can put a ladder up to your bedroom window and look in.

When I do something I don't want people to see, I don't do it in front of a window in a way that can be seen from the street. It should be pretty common sense that if you can see into your windows from a public area, someone might look, even accidentally. Or do you stand naked at your giant window, yelling "Bullshit!" to every person who walks by on the public sidewalk? Even if you don't have windows, if you yell loud enough that you can be heard from the street, you shouldn't be surprised if someone hears you.

Because it takes an active effort to get that data. And not just get it - keep it.

It took little effort to read your irrelevant straw-man argument, and no effort to remember it. What is going to take active effort is forgetting your post.

When you leave your front door unlocked (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43161099)

you shouldn't have any expectations of privacy...

Re:When you leave your front door unlocked (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43161337)

I never knew being on a public road and picking up electromagnetic waves was the same as trespassing on private property.

Re:When you leave your front door unlocked (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43161425)

trespassing on private communications...is also bad. Encrypted or not, the expectation of privacy is there.

Re:When you broadcast your personal info unencrypt (4, Insightful)

fermion (181285) | about a year ago | (#43161137)

The point is if a private citizen or smaller company had done what data did, which is to collect this 'public' information, and in some form potentially put it to use, which we have no evidence google did not do, the feds might have worked harder at finding a punishment. There is a bit of unequal justice going on.

Here is a couple of further examples. HSBC almost certainly laundered terrorist money. They were fined 1.9 billion dollars. That is like 1% of market cap. OTOH, a few years ago the leaders of Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development were put in jail for a long time and had to forfeit most of their money, the prosecutor saying money is the lifeblood of terrorist organization. By this logic HSBC is responsible of countless murders of US citizens, yet they get off pretty much scott free.

Allegiance to a dominant group is also beneficial. Eric Rudolph committed a terrorist act by bombing the olympics and other premeditated and unprovoked murders. He was a fugitive for five years. He was arrested, did not turn himself in. One might think he would be charged as a terrorist, but because he was a major element in the Christian Movement, he was merely give consecutive life sentence,which allows him to spew his hate of persons who do not agree with him. OTOH, on of the beltway snipers who were not so politically motivated and were not kept hidden and supported by the Christian terrorist movement, were put to death.

Powerful friends, and good lawyers, will tend to minimize the consequences of your actions.

Unknown Lamer, of course. (1)

xcorex (1581821) | about a year ago | (#43160713)

Worst submition, ever!

Two sets of laws (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43160719)

One set for the powerful and favorable corporations, another set for the serfs like us.

What about responsibility? (3, Interesting)

gnasher719 (869701) | about a year ago | (#43160755)

People should take responsibility for their actions. Companies are considered persons, so they need to take responsibility for their actions as well. So far the posters here deny that principle.

Where the comparison is breaking down: It was apparently one guy in the Aaron Swartz household, and one guy in the Google company, who thought it was a good idea to get data that they shouldn't have (although in the Google case, many people ended up collection data that they shouldn't have). If you have a company with 10,000 employees, and one employee costs you 20% of a days profit, that multiplied by 10,000 would be 5000 days profit, which is a lot. (But then again, it _was_ more than one employee collecting data because one guy wrote the code).

Re:What about responsibility? (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | about a year ago | (#43161105)

yeah the comparison breaks down pretty quickly.. Aaron deliberately hacked into things he shouldn't have gone near.

Google wandered around just receiving network data from open, broadcasting, wifi sites. Ostensibly so they coudl build up a map of places with free, open wifi like Starbucks or McDonalds et al. Unfortunately, lots of silly people also had open wifi nodes and the google cars simply couldn't tell that these weren't free wifi hotspots or not (could you?)

so Google gets a slap and a bit of a fine, probably more for keeping the data and trying to analyse it rather than just vaping it all as corrupted the moment they realised. Hopefully they can now go round all these unintentionally open wifi hotspots and inform the owners how to tick the "use WPA" checkbox on their wifi router. But I imagine that'll be a violation of the data, so I guess those guys will just keep downloading dodgy stuff without realising that's what their network is being used for.

Re:What about responsibility? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43161159)

If you have a company with 10,000 employees, and one employee costs you 20% of a days profit, that multiplied by 10,000 would be 5000 days profit, which is a lot. (But then again, it _was_ more than one employee collecting data because one guy wrote the code).

What? I'm not really sure this math works out any way I look at it, it's still 20% of a day's profit no matter how you spin it with number of employees, etc.

oh no (5, Insightful)

clark0r (925569) | about a year ago | (#43160759)

Oh god! This is a terrible post. It's like comparing apples and oranges. These are two totally different cases... Slashdot, you are quickly becoming the worst tech news site on the Internet :(

Fine was listed correctly to begin with... (1)

shaitand (626655) | about a year ago | (#43160763)

Fines are intended to punish so the total isn't as significant as the amount relative to the means of the fined.

Seems fair to me ... (4, Insightful)

rjmx (233228) | about a year ago | (#43160773)

Google's "punishment" seems to me to be about right for the seriousness of the "crime". Swartz's was not. In fact, the penalty Swartz was threatened with was the actual result of "lobbying fees and campaign contributions" (by the MAFIAA and its ilk).

Re:Seems fair to me ... (2)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about a year ago | (#43161353)

Yes, Google was clearly guilty of the crime of writing down what people are yelling into a bullhorn for all to hear.

Not a valid comparison (3, Informative)

geekoid (135745) | about a year ago | (#43160783)

the AG offered a deal for zero (0) prison time, MIT refused to accept it.

How many people computer rooms did Google break into? none.
How many people system did they hook an unauthorized computer to? none.
How many systems did they put unauthorized software on? None.

These two case aren't remotely the same.

Re:Not a valid comparison (2)

tibit (1762298) | about a year ago | (#43161197)

If you sniff packets, you are getting unauthorized access to a computer system. Heck, two computer systems - the endpoints of the conversation. Remember that the network is an essential part of the system.

no tapping (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43160787)

Sigh. Google didn't "tap into the networks". They simply recorded packets being broadcast from open wifi points, for the purpose of logging the SIDs. A side-effect of recording the packets was that if they happened to contain fragments of plaint-text communication, they could in theory have logged passwords etc. This was the fault of the developer who had been tasked with writing software to log SIDs. When Google realised that more than that had been logged, they themselves reported it to the authorities.

Bad analogy time: a national birdwatching society has a project to record birdsong in the urban streets of the country. They also end up recording the "private" arguments of couples who are shouting at each other indoors, but with the window on the street side of the house left open.

Godwin (3, Interesting)

Ieshan (409693) | about a year ago | (#43160791)

The Aaron Swartz Story is quickly becoming some new kind of Godwin's Law.

Yes, it was a horrible tragedy that everyone involved probably wishes they could do over again. No, it has nothing to do with this case.

Re:Godwin (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43161079)

Unknown lamer is hurt your charges, much like Aaron Swartz....

Re:Godwin (2)

DragonWriter (970822) | about a year ago | (#43161091)

Yes, it was a horrible tragedy that everyone involved probably wishes they could do over again.

Well, except the involved people that have repeatedly said they did exactly the right thing and would do the same thing again in the same circumstances, sure.

They should have threatened Google shareholders... (1)

John Hasler (414242) | about a year ago | (#43160793)

...with prison?

They could have gone after the individual employees with threats of criminal prosecution (no, the "corporate veil" would not protect them) but that would not have gotten them any money.

Re:They should have threatened Google shareholders (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | about a year ago | (#43161119)

They could have gone after the individual employees with threats of criminal prosecution (no, the "corporate veil" would not protect them) but that would not have gotten them any money.

Nor would it have been likely to produce criminal convictions, since recording unencrypted broadcasts that may happen to contain, e.g., passwords is not a crime.

Just because... (0)

wbr1 (2538558) | about a year ago | (#43160811)

...I have my blinds up doesn't make it legal for you to stand in the street and watch my family dress ot bathe. What google did is little different. Even if the comparison to Swartz is apples and oranges, it is valid in that corporations face little retribution for shady or outright criminal actions. You rob a bank you may serve life. A bank robs millions of people and grts government bail out dollars. Welcome to the brave new world.

Re:Just because... (1)

qwe4rty (2599703) | about a year ago | (#43160895)

I think you are confusing "legal" with "moral"

Re:Just because... (4, Informative)

Todd Knarr (15451) | about a year ago | (#43160945)

If I did that, what law would I be breaking? If I'm not obstructing the sidewalk, not going onto your property and not doing anything to bypass any privacy measures you've put in place (eg. by using a ladder to see over the fence you've put up), exactly what law would I be breaking standing there watching your house?

I think you'll find if you check that it's not a violation of any law. Only if you've taken some steps to insure privacy can I be touched for bypassing those measures. Celebrities have been fighting this for years. It's how the paparazzi get those candid photos and don't end up in jail.

Re:Just because... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43161455)

In fact, you will find the exact opposite: it can be illegal for the person in their home. If you stand naked at your window within plain view of public area, the courts will assume you would have to be stupid to think you won't be seen and could potentially go after you for indecency. They won't blame a passerby for looking, unless the tread on private property or had to actively bypass something obvious (e.g. sneak into a bathroom stall).

Re:Just because... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43160983)

...I have my blinds up doesn't make it legal for you to stand in the street and watch my family dress ot bathe.

Generally, people get charged for public indecency for getting naked in front of their open windows. It's not a question of whether it's legal for someone in he street to see, but if it's legal for you to intentionally do. There's your apples to oranges.

Re:Just because... (1)

tibit (1762298) | about a year ago | (#43161269)

In some places they do, in some they don't :) There's no single public decency standard. The prude U.S. has gone quite far downhill as far as western cultures go.

Re:Just because... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43161393)

Since "the prude U.S." has no federal laws regarding this topic, your understanding of reality has quite a hill to climb.

I'm going to go ahead and guess you're one of those dickholes who says "the rest of the world" when he actually means "some corner of Europe."

Re:Just because... (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | about a year ago | (#43161175)

[Just because...]...I have my blinds up doesn't make it legal for you to stand in the street and watch my family dress ot bathe.

Well, no. That doesn't "make it legal". Its legal to start with, and the fact that there is is no law which actually criminalizes standing on a public property and observing events occurring within a nearby private dwelling is what fails to make it illegal.

Re:Just because... (1)

tibit (1762298) | about a year ago | (#43161251)

Sorry, in most places in the civilized world it's perfectly legal to do so. Heck, there are places where people don't mind that all that much. I remember that there was quite a lot of nice flesh to be seen through windows in Copenhagen.

What Google did is different simply because there are laws specifically prohibiting unauthorized access to computer systems, the networks being an extension and integral part of the same -- otherwise those laws would be largely moot, as you could claim that, say, injecting some broadcast DDOS traffic is "just" messing with the network and not the end nodes. Google did collect data that was meant for the end nodes, effectively gaining unauthorized access not only to people's private systems, but also those of the various service providers. Now you may argue whether those laws make sense or not, but that's a separate issue.

Oh good grief (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43160813)

Google did nothing illegal, nor even mildly wrong. Distasteful you may argue but you are responsible for the packets you send over the radio, it's your own damn responsibility to use encryption if you don't want people looking at your data. You leave the curtains open people can see into your house.

There's nothing at all to do with Google streetview and the stupid Aaron Swartz, he repeatedly defeated physical security systems to download data he did not have permission to access. Why are you people so hell bent on defending such activity?

I'm not happy for what happened to him, but it's his own damn fault, FULL STOP.

Re:Oh good grief (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43160891)

Cuz Obama!!

Cuz Occupy!

Gimme mah free stuffz!

All wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43160815)

The mass populace doesn't consider a corporation to be capable of hacking. This [google.com] is what the populace thinks of when they hear the word "hacker".

As you can see, it's all individuals. No corporations.

US worried after Swartz (1)

minstrelmike (1602771) | about a year ago | (#43160839)

What happened was that after Swartz committed suicide, they US got worried that maybe Google might do the same thing so they backed off.
Yeah, that's the ticket fer sure ;-).

The real problem is that corporations have "no bodies to kick, no souls to damn" as someone eloquently said quite a long time ago.

Obviously they were the same crimes (2)

BitZtream (692029) | about a year ago | (#43160935)

Clearly, collecting data that people broadcast openly into the street as if they were yelling at the top of their lungs in the middle of a crowded arena is actually exactly taking the steps required to visit a website, find a loophole, exploit and download data.

I'm not saying Swartz deserved 35 years in jail (and he wouldn't have gotten that anyway), but to pretend willfully stealing data is the same as overhearing it and recording that ... well that just make you look fucking stupid.

Google's mistake is that they were honest about it what they did by accident. It isn't even actually illegal to do it intentionally contrary to popular belief in most places, regardless of what this court case makes you think. The should have just kept their mouths shut. People who understand the technology don't care about what people did. The only people that care are the ones that heard Google say 'yea, we shouldn't have done that' and then they look for reasons to tear Google apart.

Swartz on the other hand took direct action to steal data for the express purpose of stealing the data. It wasn't an accident, it was intentional. That changes the punishment in and of itself from both a moral and a legal perspective. Swartz sounds (if you think you know the truth about the Swartz case, you're just ignorant) like he probably wasn't doing anything actually wrong either from a moral perspective, but from a legal one there is no question that he violated the most basic federal computer crimes law. Unauthorized access to any computer system is illegal, period, no ifs ands or buts about it. The only exception to that is if the 'access' wasn't your choice and was forced on you, such as say the perfect example ... wifi signals broadcast at you. It is not legal to steal someones data and then say 'look, I stole some of your data, fix it!'

Slashdotters may think this is the moral high ground, but it isn't. What if he'd stolen say ... a confidential database of aids patients in the area ... and then someone stole it from him or he lost his laptop ... and now that aids patient database becomes public ... Would you still be so fucking stupid as to think it was OK for him to steal data he never had any rights too in any way? What if you were in that database? What if your child, who got aids through some shitty accident like the utrarare blood transfusion instances (rare now days anyway) and suddenly he can't go to school anymore because everyone is afraid of the little kid with HIV so your kid gets isolated from everyone and can't go to school ... would it still be OK for Swartz to have stolen the data?

Swartz was unstable and depressed, stop pretending that he was an angel that was trying to protect us from the evil bad code and data leaks.

Google accidently stored and didn't immediately throw packets that BY DEFINITION THEY CAN NOT IGNORE and you act like its the same thing as intentional data theft.

Let me give you a hint, your wifi adapter ... right now ... is listening in on EVERY FREAKING SSID ON YOUR CHANNEL AND PROBABLY THE ONES NEXT TO IT AS WELL. If you have a wifi card the difference between you and Google is that Google wrote down what you threw out.

Google is not evil and Swartz wasn't your fucking hero, grow up.

NYT article (1)

puddingebola (2036796) | about a year ago | (#43160951)

From the New York Times article, "The applause was not universal, however. Consumer Watchdog, another privacy monitor and frequent Google critic, said that “asking Google to educate consumers about privacy is like asking the fox to teach the chickens how to ensure the security of their coop.”"

*Sniff* They Were Looking At Me (1)

eyenot (102141) | about a year ago | (#43161005)

Their name /is/ "Google".

FTW (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43161039)

I live in a completely FUCKED UP world.

Bullshit premise is bullshit. (3, Informative)

GodInHell (258915) | about a year ago | (#43161083)

Google grabbed (small bites of) data out of the air that had been broadcast on unencrypted channels, in the process of collecting potentially useful information about networks broadcasting their SSIDs. When confronted by authorities Google investigated the allegations, found them to be true, and cooperated in isolating and destroying the data collected.

Aaron Schwartz entered onto MIT's property, hiding a laptop under a box, for the express purpose of downloading specific documents which he knew to be offered under a restricted license. When MIT added security measures to stop Mr. Schwartz, he updated his program to adapt to and circumvent the new methods and continued his (admittedly illegal) downloading. When approached by uniformed police, Mr. Schwarz ran in an attempt to avoid arrest.

Google was offered a penalty a several millions dollars (20% of own days income) and to commit its employee time to . . . what is essentially community service. Google accepted. Google was probably threatened with steeper penalties, but we won't ever know that, because Google did not try to use the press as a weapon against investigators.

Mr. Schwarz was offered a light sentence of a few months in prison, but refused because he didn't want to be branded a Felon. He was threatened with up to 35 years in prison and a fine of $1 Million dollars. Mr. Schwarz wanted to bring public pressure to bear to force the government not to hold him accountable for his actions, so he made public every offer and threat made by the prosecutors.

Let us compare this to a third group - the civil rights marchers of the 1960s in Selma. There, a group of citizens gathered on the public way and attempted to commit a completely legal act -- walking to their state capital together. The police ordered the crowd to disperse, and then began beating them with clubs, releasing attack dogs on them, and attacking them with water cannons. Many were hospitalized. John Lewis, the march organizer, was beaten with a club - receiving an injury to the head that caused his skull to fracture, then placed in jail and charged with a nuisance offense. This day has been named "bloody Sunday" because of the breadth and severity of the injuries inflicted by the police on law abiding citizens.

See the differences?

Tired of This Case (4, Insightful)

organgtool (966989) | about a year ago | (#43161107)

I am so sick of hearing how evil Google was for recording information that other people forcefully put out into public airwaves. I know there are going to be plenty of bad analogies, so let me attempt to preempt them with a good analogy. If you go through the effort of acquiring a bullhorn to communicate with other members in your household and then proceed to pollute public airwaves with your personal information using this bullhorn, you have absolutely zero expectations of privacy. It really is as simple as that. If you don't like this, then you have many options: takes 30 seconds to set up a damn password, use https connections when possible, or use a wired connection! Once you put something out there, you can't take it back, so exercise some damn personal responsibility if you hold any expectations of privacy.

Re:Tired of This Case (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43161303)

Typical technophile rant probably expecting everyone and grandmas to know wpatk2 aes alphanumeric https// foo foo poo poo it dun take 30 secs.

Google fanboys (or astroturfers?) are out in force (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43161109)

The response by the pro-Google crowd is a little too fast and strong to believe. The comparison is a good one.

Every time an institution gets caught doing something wrong they use the same defenses: It was an innocent mistake; it was a bad apple and not our policy. Now sometimes those excuses are true but that's only coincidence -- they'll say it anyway.

Google is filled with many clever people and decisions are reviewed and carefully thought through; they know what they are doing. I have a hard time believing they didn't know what they would pickup by collecting unencrypted wifi data. IIRC, in the European cases, there were indications that it was intentional. They are also a company that collects private data as their core business model; it's not a surprise.

Plus, it's an invasion of privacy to collect my SSID. Just because I tell my neighbor something doesn't mean it's ok to put it in a database and track me.

Only political power can protect your privacy (1)

guanxi (216397) | about a year ago | (#43161259)

The situation that is playing out was anticipated by many: The politically powerful have their proprietary information protected, because they can make government do it for them. Everyone else has no privacy.

Individual end-users don't have the ability to protect themselves. Most have no idea of encryption, much less what data is accessible to someone scanning Wifi frequencies (most people couldn't even tell you what a "frequency" is!). Even if they had the knowledge, they have limited time and resources. That doesn't make them fair game or mean they surrender their privacy rights.

Google exploited a loophole in Wifi; Schwartz exploited a loophole in a server. Both took proprietary data. What's the difference? The law, made by the politically powerful, says that the data Schwartz took was valuable and protected, while my personal data is not. I wonder what would happen if I went to Google offices and homes and collected unencrypted data; would I be arrested? Fined 20% of 1 day's net income?

(It's hard to believe that Google didn't know what they would end up with by collecting unencrypted Wifi data -- they certainly know about frequencies, encryption, and wifi. They could have saved a lot of storage if they just took SSIDs and ignored the rest. Plus they are experts; they are responsible for knowing what they are doing.)

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